Chapter 2: medical tests guidance (2) developing the topic and structuring systematic reviews of medical tests: utility of PICOTS, analytic frameworks, decision trees, and other frameworks

J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Jun;27 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S11-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-012-2007-7.


Topic development and structuring a systematic review of diagnostic tests are complementary processes. The goals of a medical test review are to identify and synthesize evidence to evaluate the impacts alternative testing strategies on health outcomes and to promote informed decision making. A common challenge is that the request for a review may state the claim for the test ambiguously. Due to the indirect impact of medical tests on clinical outcomes, reviewers need to identify which intermediate outcomes link a medical test to improved clinical outcomes. In this paper, we propose the use of five principles to deal with challenges: the PICOTS typology (patient population, intervention, comparator, outcomes, timing, setting), analytic frameworks, simple decision trees, other organizing frameworks and rules for when diagnostic accuracy is sufficient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviations as Topic
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Review Literature as Topic*